Bobby Davis of Muskogee is raising four of his grandchildren, despite several huge challenges.
“My grandson Shayne is 10, my granddaughter Haeli is 8, my granddaughter Kamirah is 5, and my grandson Bobby II is 2 1/2,” he said. “I’m divorced, and I’m disabled after several bouts with cancer.”
Grandparents raising their grandchildren was once rare, but the U.S. Census Bureau now estimates that 2.5 million have this responsibility.
Oklahoma has the sixth highest percentage — 56.9 percent — of grandparents responsible for grandchildren who live with them, census data shows.
In Oklahoma, the American Association of Retired People says 57,601 children are living in grandparent-headed households.
Davis, 44, said that before three of his grandchildren enrolled in school, and he was trying to make it to doctors’ appointments in Tulsa, he tried to get help with daycare from the Department of Human Services.
“When I applied for childcare through DHS they actually tried to take the children away,” he said. “They said if I needed childcare I wasn’t capable of taking care of these children. So, needless to say, I pay for a baby-sitter when I need childcare out of my own pocket.”
There’s not much in that pocket, since Davis only has $1,100 in income each month. He said he has learned to make full use of coupons and sales, but barely makes ends meet. Although his life is focused on the children, he said he does not resent the extra responsibility.
“I feel like they saved my life, because when I was going though all the chemo and the radiation with the cancer, even though I didn’t feel like getting out of bed I had to; I was all they had,” he said.
Davis said his daughter is trying her best to improve her life to the point where she can take responsibility for the children.
“Now, their mother has come back into the picture, but she had some problems with personal issues and just was not able to take care of them,” he said. “And she has worked very, very hard to get her life back together. But I still have the children, and hopefully one day she will be able to take care of the children.
Muskogee County Department of Human Services Assistant Director Faye Waits said having to raise children a second time around can be difficult.
“There are the basic challenges like putting a roof over their head, being a parent again when just been taking care of yourself, getting the kids enrolled in school, making sure the kids get up and get to school every day, and being responsible for their medical care,” she said.
Waits said some grandparents may be so aged that they cannot accompany their grandchildren to many events.
“There may also be problems for the grandparent if they are older and have disabilities and can’t be as active as when they were younger,” she said.
Waits said many grandparents raising grandchildren may be eligible for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
By the numbers
• 2.5 million: Number of grandparents who act as caregivers to their grandchildren.
• 1.7 million: Number of grandparent-caregivers who are married.
• 1.4 million: Number of grandparents who are in the labor force and are responsible for most of their grandchildren’s basic needs.
• 918,000: Number of grandparents who cared for their grandchildren for at least the past five years.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Oklahoma has sixth highest percentage in nation
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